|Session 3 - A social justice framework|
3.3 - Rights discourse
We argue that a unifying concept with which to explore child welfare across borders is that of children's rights.
The World Summit for Children took place in 1990. This inter-governmental conference introduced the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that has now become a cornerstone piece of documentation in the advancement of children's rights across the globe.
For detailed information on the history, content and implementation of the UNCRC check these websites:
Individual governments choose whether to sign up to the rights in the Convention. All four countries explored in this course have signed up to all or some of the articles of the Convention.
This provides a common focus for looking at the principles and practice of child welfare across Canada, England, Netherlands and Sweden.
It is important, however, to see the UNCRC as one expression of children's rights and as containing a number of competing aspirations. Burman (1997), for example, offers a reminder that upholding children's rights may be at the expense of familial or parental rights. She also alerts us to the potential of political manipulation in upholding rights. She says (1997:237)
Children are also people and fall within Human Rights mandates and guidance. For example go to UN UN Human Rights.
Freeman (1996) reminds us of the 1959 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child that saw the adoption of ten principles, a development of the Geneva Declaration of 1924. This declaration, its origins rooted in the First World War in Europe, viewed children as the key to society's future, with a bonus of promoting peace between nations. The 1959 Declaration, although wider in scope, retained an emphasis on protection and welfare with the child as an object of concern.
It took a decade more for notions of self-determination to emerge alongside an articulation of empowerment and participation in decision-making for children. The early 1970's saw the publication of a key text 'Children's Rights' in England (Adam, P. et al, 1972). Questions of children's rights had become associated, for example, with the de-schooling movement and can be broadly linked to the social change and questioning to emerge from the mid 1960's in both parts of Europe and North America. The focus of action at that time was the ideology of liberation, freeing children from the constraints of society's rules, and arguably not necessarily rooted in pragmatism.
So already it is clear that to speak of rights as a singular term is inadequate and it is therefore it is appropriate to attempt to distinguish between different types of rights, that can be in conflict with each other. In the field of child welfare such conflicts and tensions are visible routinely, in the resolution for example of the question of 'the best interest of the child'. Broadly rights issues are concerned with legal, procedural and moral dimensions.
Types of rights include:-
Another way of grouping the right within the UNCRC is using the '3Ps' suggested by Hammarberg (cited in Troope, 1996 and also used by others)
In any analysis of a situation using a rights perspective it is important to remember that rights are not
When considering the UNCRC as an analytical tool there is a need to be aware of the different types of rights contained within the articles and their implications.